The face of determination

7 Jun

On Saturday, June 4, I went to a Bryant alum’s birthday party. It was a special party for two reasons: First, because the birthday ‘boy’ turned 30, a milestone by any standards; and second, because doctors told his parents that he would never see age 30.

Matthew DiIorio ’04 (Johnston, RI) has Friedreich’s ataxia. It’s a rare, progressive disease that causes irreparable damage to the spinal cord, loss of muscle coordination, and, often, heart problems. But it doesn’t affect thinking and reasoning abilities. At present, there is no cure or treatment for the disorder.


I don’t know what I was expecting when I got there, but what I found was a house filled with loving friends and relatives who were celebrating a joyous occasion.

I knew there was something very special about the man in the wheelchair, so I kept trying to jump on him. Mommy Tina moved a chair next to him and placed me in it, where I stayed for a very long time (by my standards). A couple of times, I stepped over the side of the wheelchair to stand in Matthew’s lap.

Me & Matt
Mommy Tina kept moving me off Matt’s lap because she said she didn’t want me to hurt him. She didn’t know that Matt and I had already bonded.

Although Matt’s speech is slurred due to the Friedreich’s ataxia, he was pretty clear when he told Mommy T, “no, he’s not hurting me, he can stay.”

Me & Matt 3
Thank you, Professor David Ciliberto (who was one of Matt’s favorite teachers at Bryant), for thinking to include me. Thank you, Jack and Sallyann DiIorio, for welcoming me into your home and being so very happy I could come. And, finally, thank you, Matt, for showing everyone what it means to have determination, perseverance, and positivity in the face of adversity.

Me & Matt 4
If you would like to help find a cure for Friedreich’s ataxia, visit the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance ‘ways to help’ page.

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2 Responses to “The face of determination”

  1. kateshrewsday June 10, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    Tupper is the most fabulous dog and his journals make compulsive reading. I knew nothing about Friedreich’s ataxia. It sounds like a great celebration for a very special day.

    • Bryant University Mascot Tupper June 10, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

      Thank you, kateshrewsday! I’m still new at blogging and am still trying to get the hang of things, so I appreciate your feedback! I hope to have more posts soon.

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